First Color Portraits

Laurie says:

All my portraits until now have been in black and white film and darkroom work.  The only color work I’ve done has been my present In-Camera Project digital work and except for cropping, it’s not manipulated. These prints are 5″ wide and printed on 8.5″ by 11″ paper.  The white space and the relationship of the image to it are an important part of the aesthetic of the work.  That’s why I haven’t put up In-Camera work since I understood this about the photos.  I’m not sure about showing them on the blog without the larger space around them, and the blog format does not permit this without making them postage stamp size.  So I’m still thinking about it.

I rarely do commission portraits.  I need the same kind of absolute artistic freedom that I have for my projects. (It is a collaboration with the model but not one that involves the art.)  Once in a great while someone wants to commission a portrait who is truly comfortable with this.

Piglet Evans approached me about doing her portrait last January.  I explained my standards for accepting portrait commissions and told her that I was no longer doing black and white work.  It was clear from our conversation that she was someone I could successfully collaborate with on a portrait.  I had been wondering what it would be like to do a nude in the In-Camera style.  I  told her that I would be interested, if it was in the format of the new work and she immediately said yes.

We did a long shoot in May. The similarities and differences between color and black and white composition work were fascinating.  The collaboration with the model was, not surprisingly, unchanged.

I recently finished and sent her this pair of portraits.  I like to think about work for a while after I shoot. And since this is early in the project I was still working on paper choice.  I had originally assumed this would be one picture, but like some of the Women En Large images she was clearly  more than a one-image portrait.

I knew that unlike the In-Camera work, the portraits would need Photoshop work, simply to capture the original moment.  My friend Ctein, who is superb at this, worked with me.

These are my first color nude portraits. The first one is smaller here then the original because of the size constraints of the blog, the second is full size.  They will be matted together in the same frame.  I think they worked out beautifully.


nudefrom waist up against wall



laughing nude in chair

4 thoughts on “First Color Portraits

  1. I like the diagonal slant in the second; it draws the eye without shouting composition.

    These pictures show a definite black and white style, that is, they would work the same.

    Nice. (More people should laugh in their portraits.)

  2. D.,

    Thanks. Glad you like the work.

    Actually, they don’t to me. They are my style of portraits so they are going to be about the model not color . But I know that if I had been shooting her in black and white, I would have made very different choices.

  3. I’m fascinated and a bit mystified that I have such very different expectations of color photographs compared to black & white. It’s almost as though a b&w photo is iconic, separated sufficiently from reality that I can view it more easily as “art” and don’t immediately react to it as literal representation. Perhaps it’s that a b&w photo requires us to fill in the gap (absence of color), engaging the imagination in ways not stimulated by natural-color images. Do you have any insights into this to share?

  4. Paul,

    Sorry to be so long in answering. I was away at a show.

    I don’t experience black and white and color as different in any “iconic” sense when I work. Certainly black and white “abstracts” images to a degree but I don’t find good color work any less art. And color can and often is, used to do the same “abstraction”.

    I do think that it’s more difficult to do good color work because color itself is so seductive to the eye.

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